Friday, March 14, 2008

Watching movies and drawing...



...is actually one of my favourite artistic exercises. I'm the kind of guy who gets fidgety if I just sit and watch a movie, so I like to doodle sometimes while a movie is on. Especially if its an old black and white one from the 1930's to the 1950's. I really enjoy studying films from that era, especially the noir ones, for their incredible staging and lighting design. Because the films were black and white, the cinematographers and lighting designers really had to plan their shots for maximum effectiveness and emotional impact. Hence, when I watch certain films from that period, I'm often very impressed with how they balance blacks and problem solve things like a white dress against a white wall. Studying that stuff really helps me out with my own artistic process.

Anyway, the doodles above were drawn while watching a certain film from that period. I drew them really quickly, usually just straight up in ink and often not even bothering to pause the movie, so there was no attempt at capturing likenesses or such. I really just wanted to jot down the lighting and shot ideas that I thought were interesting as quickly as pssible.

CONTEST ALERT:
Now, to make it all very interesting, I'm going to turn this into a little contest. The first person who can guess what film these drawings are from, will win an original drawing and a goody-pack of comics and anthology books from me. Just post your guess in the comments section and the first one to get it right, I'll declare as the winner. In case of a tie or something weird, I'll do drawings for all the winners...or work out something else to everyone's satisfaction. Honest. The only clue I'll offer here here is that the film is pretty damn famous -- and justifiably so -- the lighting design is just the best I've ever seen in black and white.

Geez, I really hope someone doesn't guess it correctly in the first post or something... guess we'll have to see how this goes!

28 comments:

Joel Kimmel said...

In a Lonely Place?
Great drawings, that's a really good drawing exercise for sure. I'll have to try it sometime.

Michael Cho said...

Nice try, Joel! But, sadly, no.

BTW, I really, really dig all the NBA friday drawings you do for Slamonline. Those are fantastic - especially to a hoops junkie like myself.

—J said...

I suppose the Maltese Falcon would be too obvious.

Dr Dave said...

DOUBLE INDEMNITY!! Just watched it the other night!

Alan said...

Aw, screw it, someone bet me to it. Definitely Double Indemnity. Barbara Stanwyk hiding behind the door is one of the giveaways. Anyway, I live in Oxford England, so maybe too far away for a prize. Really just wanted to say: Great blog (found via the splendid Chris Samnee), and Spooky, I was doing something very similar last night, sitting in a pub copying stills from The 39 Steps (Hitch version) from a newspaper article about old movies; with Pitt Brushpens, grey and black. Only difference, I spent longer, and yours are better! ;)

Dominic Bugatto said...

These are really nice. Def Double Indemnity.

Michael Cho said...

Aww...dang. That didn't take long, did it?

Dr. Dave is indeed the winner -- Double Indemnity is indeed the movie depicted here. The lighting and staging in that movie are second to none.

I swear, I thought I could milk this contest for a couple of weeks, with me laughing maniacally as the wrong guesses piled up. But, dang...you guys are just too on-the-ball.

Anyway, Dr. Dave, drop me a line via email with your mailing address and such and I'll hook you up, ok? And if you're a friend of Paul Maes and part of that crazy 'zine gang of his, then I know my prize pack is going to a good home!

BTW, while we're on this subject, anyone else got any other recommendations on movies that have great black and white design?

Robokid said...

while it's not an old movie, i think 'dead man' is one of the most beautiful (aesthetically) movies i ever saw...

Dr Dave said...

Aw yeah!! The great Cagny representation had me leaning the right way, but I guess that Stanwick-behind-the-door scene is pretty famous cuz that's what made me sure I was right. Really nice "studies", Michael!

RIFIFI has some cool b+w stuff in it and so does La Jetée, the short film that TWELVE MONKEYS was based on.

I am indeed part of Paul Maes' notorious dirty drawing chain gang. We've got a new filthy zine we just finished I'll put in the post to you. I'll email you my mailing address in a bit too.

Glad you're feeling better!

Alan said...

Cagney? In Double Indem?...
Anyway, I guess more noir is the way to go for lighting compositions; maybe especially Fritz Lang, like The Big Heat. Others that might repay careful reviewing: Maltese Falcon, Sunset Boulevard; Hitchcock's Notorious and Strangers on a Train...

Michael Cho said...

Robokid: Nice pick -- Dead Man is by Jim Jarmush, right? That dude always had good cinematography...

Dr Dave: cool! Nice to do a swap -- I always enjoy those zines you guys put out -- my fav to this date is that D&D riff one "Chaotic Neutral" I think it was called. I've shown your stuff to some other toronto artists and we all got a kick out of the zines.

Alan: no doubt Dave was refering to Edward G. "Chief Wiggam" Robinson instead of Cagney. Edward G. is actually one of my fav actors of all time. That dude makes ANY film better, whether its a classic like Key Largo, or a trippy one like Soylent Green.

Alan said...

Yeah figured it must be 'Wiggam' (heheh). Agree about Ed G. Class act. He gives the brilliant Double Indemnity the only heart it has, in a way.
Talking of heart, your online stories have got bags of it. Great reads, and stylish art - love that two-tone style you've developed. And your settings feel very real. Pleasure. Will be a regular visitor

Chris Wahl said...

Good to hear you're feeling better now, Mike.

Fantastic quick ink sketches!

Ben said...

Yep, I'm the same one. I've just been rediscovering all the comic artist blogs. I need to start adding some links to mine. And, oddly enough, I've just been looking to old films for inspiration, but in my case it's just the openings, specifically those by Saul Bass. His stuff is way more brilliant than I'll ever understand, but if I just keep staring something's bound to sink in . . .

Dr Dave said...

Heh - oops. I could say I was thinking "Robinson" as I typed "Cagney" but I'd be lying... I just always mix those two up (I know - film noir faux pas!!) What can I say - I was born in the 70s - my generation is all about telling The Two Coreys apart (Haim v. Feldman). It's not b/w, but go re-watch LOST BOYS - that gem still holds up!

I also second robokid's recommendation of Jarmusch's DEAD MAN... that's a really nice one to watch.

Michael - glad you liked CHAOTIC NEUTRAL... we were actually thinking of doing a sequel that would also be a tribute to E. Gary Gygax, RIP

Ras Yeti said...

I really like the shot compositions in the original b&w Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

If you wanna see some super hot movie shots dig GeeGar's 'Snark Out' blog:

http://theblackisland.blogspot.com/

Dominic Bugatto said...

Great B&W cinema - try John Huston's Asphalt Jungle or Kubrick's Killer's Kiss.

Drazen said...

great studies Michael.
you cant' go wrong with The Third Man and Night and the CIty (or Nightmare Alley).
And RIffifi is a brilliant movie.
Its been great ever since Turner Classic Movies got
thrown onto our cable, lots of amazing old movies
I wouldn't have seen and they show Noirs unavailable on DVD.
I just watched Underworld USA which was fantastic and have been wanting to see.
The Letter has some killer b and w images in it (tho its more of a melodaramatic noir).
Stranger on the THird FLoor has one of my favourite dream sequences ever.

Roberto Zaghi said...

I might add to the above listed masterpieces: Cat people, Out of the past, The stranger, The thin man, Gangsters..... I love old bw movies too:)
Fantastic studies Michael, great compositions, very well captured frames, congratulations!
I'm very glad to hear that you are feeling better after that health problem.
-rz-

Rob Swizzle said...

Wow! I try to do this once in a while and it is brutally hard. You don't realize how much things move until you sit down with a sketch pad.

Drawing suggestion: Night of the Living Dead is great for black and white shadows.

Oh, and the original Cape Fear. The director intentionally removes more and more of the grey area as the film progresses, so the final primal fight scenes look almost like they are photocopied.

EL GRANDE said...

Sweet images. I'm really digging the line work. That page of hatching below is awesome too. It reminds me of having Saturday school:)

Peace,
Joe y Elio

Dylan said...

Great post mike, I'm going to have to try that out.

The Coen's "The Man Who Wasn't There" has some really nice stuff in it.

Shawn Crystal said...

Michael
Search out these movies...

Anything where John Alton was the cinematographer. The movies are second rate at best but the cinematography is gold. The Big Combo, T-Men, Raw Deal (the old one) He wrote a book called painting with light. The book is too much of a technical guide, but the movies are gold.

Cat People (the original)

Im sure you know about "Out Of the Past."

Also Woody Allen's "Manhattan" is my favorite shot movie.

Hope that helps.

Michael Cho said...

All great recommendations, folks! Thanks for the heads up. I've watched a few of those movies, but now I'm jazzed to find some of the others like the original Cat People, and the original Cape Fear.

Thanks for the suggestions!

jeremy said...

This is how I was taught to draw... weird. I wasn't so sure my mentor was mentally fit when he made me do this over and over. If an artist I admire such as yourself does it too, then I feel much better about it.

thedave said...

...try Luc Besson's "Angel A" or Darren Aronofsky's "PI"...or Godard's "Alphaville"
"Deadman" is by far jim j.'s best film.

Hattie said...

michael. these are great. i know you put them up a while ago, but i just saw them. i put them on my screen save to remind me of what good composition looks like. it reminds me of "Wally Woods 22 panels that always work". if you dont have a copy of that let me know and ill e-mail it to you.
tony. baconhut@aol.com

barbie desoto said...

that was easy...